Teens and reading

By: Marcus Lund

How long has it been since you’ve wanted to read a book? Not for English class, but for fun? For some kids, it’s been a while.

Firstly, let’s look at the numbers. According to an NAEP survey, 13 year olds who read 30 minutes or more every night, not for homework, dropped 4% from 2017 to 2019. The number officially dropped under 50%. For high schoolers, the numbers are even more daunting. Only 20% of kids report reading a newspaper, magazine, or a book daily, whereas 80% of them reported going on some sort of social media.

This is a problem. With declining numbers in daily reading, a predictable result is becoming more and more obvious: kids are getting worse at it. With reading lessening, so are reading scores. This is a nationwide phenomenon, and a disappointment to many parents. Experts say that reading, even if it’s a book like ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ or ‘Captain Underpants’, is incredibly vital to teenage brain development.

Why are teens reading less? The problem resides in something vital to teenage existence: our phones. Teens average 9 hours of entertainment media use, and pre-teens average 6. This time takes away from less passive entertainment, like reading. But I find it hard to blame the average teenager. I personally enjoy some forms of social media and talking to my friends more than I do reading a book, and this is a nationwide opinion that’s widely agreed upon.

Screens also affect the brain more negatively than reading, with frequent screen use resulting in poorer literacy skills and less ability to use expressive language. Conversely, teens who read more scored higher on cognitive tests.

Reading is good for you, which probably isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is the amount that teens are skipping out on it. Personally, I know that I’m going to start reading more. Will you?

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